Content Warning: This section has violence and injuries mentioned, with some blood details.
As Captain predicted, Shiner passed the destination proximity radius without sending the regulation required Notification of Arrival message twenty-five hours in advance. Captain still ordered the standard Receipt of Message reply to be sent. The lead bridge crew InterStel Officer, Chester dan Broque, hesitated on sending the reply, winning him a small grin from Captain.
“Let’s make Shiner uncomfortable, dan Broque,” she said.
He went through the motions of sending the message and then smiled back at Captain as if he was in on some kind of private joke. She checked her smart and scrolled pages, seemingly scanning reports and news feeds while waiting for Shiner’s reply.
Captain stopped scrolling and sighed at her smart’s small display. “Replies come faster when messages are sent to the correct receiver,” she stated.
The members of her lead bridge crew all looked toward her as she slid the page up from the little display onto her smart’s holoscreen. A live link from Dockland’s InterStel console clearly exposed the message had been sent to and received by Shaverrim, the disbanded Senior Coalition Advisory Chair, and not to Shiner’s Captain. Chester dan Broque lost more skin tones than looked healthy for a man who was already so pale.
“I’ve been wondering why you didn’t take the lifeboat offer. Thank you for answering my questions before anything important happened.” Captain brushed her smart and the holoscreen closed. InterStel’s bridge console suddenly blanked except for flashing a single word: LOCKED. “Security to the bridge for a social disturbance,” she ordered into her smart.
“This is going to be a war and you picked the wrong side!” dan Broque spit the accusation as he stepped back. He suddenly slid forward, dropping into a low fighting stance, and slammed a fist into the shining console support.
Captain watched, only mild amusement on her face and her arms crossed loosely in front of her body, as his expression shifted away from righteous anger laced with superior indignation toward something else entirely. His bottom lip quivered and his shoulders hunched forward instinctively, the defensive posture turtling around his crumpled and quickly-swelling hand. The tight fist dan Broque had slammed into the first console support, intended to pass through and shatter both supports in an effort to render InterStel useless, was now a loose collection of broken bones held together only by torn skin and damaged soft tissues. There was a brown-ish smear where he’d made contact and the blood left behind was discolored by the blue tinged lighting inside the support.
“That probably would have worked on a standard Coalition ship. You obviously have the training to hit it hard enough to break both supports,” Captain said to him. His wide eyes lifted from his ruined hand and stared at her in shock. “This, however, isn’t a standard ship,” she added as the requested security personnel arrived.
“There was a problem, Captain?” the lead of the security pair asked, looking around curiously at the apparently calm situation on the bridge, her eyes resting on the injured crew member last.
“Escort dan Broque to cryo detention,” Captain ordered. “Medic can see to his hand once he’s unconscious and before he enters detention. See to it that his files, records, communications, and accounts are all frozen immediately. His rank as an officer of Dockland is rescinded as of now pending inquiry findings. Initiate detainment as soon as he’s cleared by Medic.”
“You can’t do that,” InterStel Officer whispered.
“You just proved yourself a threat to the safety and lives of my entire crew, and to every Daion on the allied planet we’re orbiting, by attempting to destroy Dockland’s InterStel interface. The action you just took is in direct treason against Coalition regulations, a direct order issued to Dockland by Public Face, and the Agreement of One Cause. You also claimed this situation will become a war. Consider your detention my first official response to a presented militaristic threat.”
He laughed as the security pair flanked one to each side of him. “You Central Worlds people don’t know anything about war,” he said, spitting the words.
Captain smiled at him coldly. “I’m from the Aerestarkian quadrants, not the Central Worlds. My pre-Academy education encompasses all eight standard years of what used to be Yard 17,” Captain said quietly. The officer’s burst of confidence crumpled as quickly as his hand had. Captain held his gaze a moment longer and then looked to the security team. “Detainment now,” she ordered.
“Yes, Captain,” the lead of the security pair acknowledged. Captain walked over to the locked console as the ex-officer was escorted from the bridge.
“That, uh” –Chief Navigator Abagail Dods chuckled– “that was a good bluff.”
Captain arched an eyebrow as she unlocked and scanned the console to ensure none of the systems had been corrupted.
“I mean, it’s not like you actually grew up in the middle of the Yard 17 Occupations, right?” he continued.
“Believe whatever you need to so you can sleep during your off shift, but trust me completely when I say the only person in Coalition more qualified than me for Captaining a gunship during a war is currently sitting as Public Face,” Captain replied.
Lead Analyst Shawna Capero cleared her throat, adding her own nervous energy to the conversation. The shine of her console reflected on her glasses and straight, black hair. “Don’t current regulations state all shipside console supports be made of soft-assemble poly? So they dull shatter for safety in the event of a force collision or impact to avoid crew member injuries?” Shawna asked into the thick silence.
Captain snorted a single chuckle. “These consoles are rated for operations in accordance with what a gunship requires, Shawna. If Dockland is involved in a force collision or impact which renders them structurally inoperable, the consoles being inoperable would be the least of our concerns.”
The two bridge officers shared a quick glance before turning back to their own consoles; Dods staring at Dockland’s orbital positioning intently as Shawna watched the latest launches of Daion fleet components being maneuvered into position for the ships they would be assembled into. Moments later a written ship-wide announcement provided the information that, for this shift, Captain was acting InterStel Officer for the bridge and a selected person joining the lead crew would be announced upon acceptance of the promotion.
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